The Movie Waffler New to Shudder - EDGE OF THE AXE | The Movie Waffler

New to Shudder - EDGE OF THE AXE

edge of the axe review
A mysterious axe murderer terrorises a small California town.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: José Ramón Larraz

Starring: Barton Faulks, Christina Marie Lane, Page Mosely, Fred Holliday, Patty Shepard

edge of the axe bluray

Boasting a title that wouldn't look out of place on the track list of an Iron Maiden LP, José Ramón Larraz's 1988 Spanish-American slasher Edge of the Axe is a last ditch attempt to squeeze some paste from the slasher tube a full decade after John Carpenter's Halloween unleashed a wave of masked imitators. Larraz isn't hiding the influence, with his killer sporting a white, featureless mask so close to that worn by Michael Myers it almost infringes on copyright.

edge of the axe review

Best known for his acclaimed work in Britain (Vampyres; Symptoms) and some not so acclaimed films made in his native Spain (The Coming of Sin; Stigma), Larraz makes his American filmmaking debut here, with the action located in the small Northern Californian town of Paddock County. It's the stomping ground for the aforementioned masked meanie, who is butchering the town's womenfolk with an axe.

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The local sheriff (Fred Holliday) doesn't seem all too interested in catching the killer, preferring to write off the discovered corpses as suicides. Thus the investigation is left to a pair of youngsters - computer geek Gerald (Jim Carrey lookalike Barton Faulks), who has just moved into a cabin in the town, and Lillian (Christina Marie Lane), a pretty college student who improbably falls for the nerd.

edge of the axe review

Larraz brings the whodunit element of Euro-thrillers across the pond, teasing the identity of the killer to improbable levels. Practically every adult male in the town is a suspect, and to a man they're all just about creepy enough to warrant investigation. Larraz might be the most misandrist filmmaker ever, as I can't think of a single positive male figure in any of his movies. The male population of Paddock County are a particularly loathsome lot. The Sheriff's reaction to finding a woman's corpse is to joke about her part-time prostitution work, even implying that he may have availed of her services himself. When he asks the train driver who found her body what state it's in, he insensitively replies "Hamburger meat!" Gerald's dude-bro best friend, Richard (Page Moseley), has married an older woman for her money, and likes to joke about how unattractive she is, while cheating behind her back with the young women who somehow find him irresistible. Even our nominal hero, Gerald, is a condescending git who treats Lillian like an adult as he nerdsplains the ins and outs of computers to the poor lass. Oh, and when he takes her for a spin on his motorbike, he hogs the one available crash helmet - take that Walter Raleigh!

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The addition of Gerald and Lillian feels like an attempt to cash in on the sort of teen genius roles Matthew Broderick was finding success in during this period, but the luddite approach to computers leads to much unintentional hilarity. Belly laughs are also generated by the awkward mix of American and Spanish actors - in some scenes you can practically see the confusion on the faces of American performers as they watch their Spanish counterparts speak their lines in Spanish, later to be dubbed over in English. Add in some nonsensical plotting and Edge of the Axe is a laugh riot, akin to its more famous Spanish-American slasher cousin, Juan Piquer Simón's Pieces.

edge of the axe review

While Spanish exploitation thrillers of this period are often rendered laughable by their inept scriptwriting, they always impress on a technical level, and Edge of the Axe is no different. Larraz and cinematographer Tote Trenas capture Northern California in all its scenic glory - it's a striking setting that adds considerable production value, though its prettiness does somewhat detract from any moody atmosphere Larraz attempts to generate.

In this post Stranger Things landscape, Edge of the Axe may find a new audience of genre fans willing to eat up anything 1980s. A Spanish production desperate to appear as American as apple pie, it tries so hard in this regard, with cans of Coke and movie posters displayed prominently, that it often resembles a modern movie imitating the Reagan era. Add Javier Elorrieta's synth score and you have a thriller that will quench your nostalgia for the decade that taste forgot.

Edge of the Axe is on Shudder UK now.